The Osborn Hair – A Lifetime of Questions

Now that Harry Osborn has returned to the Marvel Universe in the “Brand New Day” reboot it has brought to light an age old question. A question that has plagued me since I was but a wee lad first reading comic books. A question that I have found, from entirely unscientific research, that has also plagued many of my fellow comic book readers.

That question is this:

Seriously, what is up with that hair?

There is no one in all of comic books — that I know of — that has hair quite like that of the male members of the Osborn clan. That widow’s peak. That distinctive ridged texture. That look that screams “I still look like I belong in a comic book from the 1960s!”

It’s surprising that in this age of updating people’s looks to fit more modern styles, the one thing that has endured is The Osborn Hair. It would be as simple as having Harry walk in with a new hair style and saying to Peter “How do you like my new look?” or even just have Harry lose those ridges and give him a smooth, short cut. His grand return from comic book limbo (i.e. his stint in rehab) would be the perfect excuse for a little modernization. Sure, people would hem and haw on the internet — that’s what they do! — but to me it would make Harry seem less… antiquated. And yet, the ridges endure. Could it be that The Osborn Hair is more powerful than adamantium? Could it be that The Osborn Hair is more resilient than Wolverine?

Every now and then when there’s a major motion picture of a time honored comic book character, influences from the movies make their way into the comics. Like those leather suits in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, or Professor X looking a hell of a lot like Patrick Stewart these days in the pages of X-Factor. In Sam Raimi’s blockbuster Spider-Man trilogy, Harry Osborn was played by James Franco. The filmmakers very smartly did not try to recreate that… unique Osborn look, instead letting James Franco and Willem Dafoe (as Norman Osborn) let their hair flow free and natural.

Funnily enough, it was James Franco that got me to thinking about The Osborn Hair phenomenon. The first issue of “Brand New Day” — The Amazing Spider-Man #546 — featured a back up story starring Harry Osborn and drawn by Mike Deodato Jr., who as of late has been quite a big fan of photo referencing movie stars. For this story he, very logically, chose James Franco for Harry Osborn. One problem. He gave James Franco… The Osborn Hair. I literally almost dropped the book form laughing so hard. Talk about worlds colliding resulting in some truly bizarre imagery.

Now, at this point you might be saying to yourself, “Why does he care? It’s just hair!” And you might be right, it is just hair. But it’s damned peculiar and I wouldn’t be a good crazy comic book fan if I didn’t find something minute to go loopy about.

You would think, at some point, one of Harry’s friends would start asking the important questions. Questions like, “Seriously, dude — what’s up with the ridges?” and “What kind of crops are in season right now?” These questions would most likely be asked after a few bottles of really expensive booze. Or maybe those very questions have been asked, and Harry has used his family’s money and influence to make those friends “go to rehab.” Maybe that’s part of the reason why Harry was so very angry. Part of the reason why he went evil all those years ago. Deep down inside he grew tired of all the abuse about the hair. Deep down inside, something snapped.

All because of The Osborn Hair.



  1. It always bothered me that wolverine and sebastian shaw have the same haircut.

  2. I have always felt the “Osbourne hair” was the elephant in the room that no one would ever acknowledge. Of all the tings that Mephisto can change… his power falls short on hair styles apparently.

    the Tiki

  3. The recurring gags in Deadpool #11 were genius!

  4. Oh man, every single time I see the hair I want to write in about it but always decide it isn’t worth my time. And it’s always good for a laugh. 40 years of consistency in a character’s appearance doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, the hair is asinine.

  5. I’m kind of confused as to what the Osborn hair actually looks like. Like, if someone had it in real life, what would it look like? The ridges are just odd…

  6. Many’s the time I have looked at the Osborn hair and thought, “How would you even get that ‘do if you wanted it??” I have pretty wavy/curly hair myself. I think I have the exact hair type to pull it off. But how? Lye and a waffle iron? It looks like they wake up every morning, shampoo, heat their running shoes on the stove and apply the treads to their scalps for 20 minutes.

    Is this a Ditko thing or a Romita thing? They had to get the idea from somewhere.

  7. Norman and Harry and their weird hair first appeared by the pencil of Ditko, but I think Romita made the hair all the more distinct.

    I remember an issue that was toward the end of the clone Saga, after Norman had come back, where one of Norman’s old partners, Stromm, was now a cyborg villain with amnesia. While fighting Spider-Man, the amnesic cyborg was ranting about his fragmented memories of Osborn and his “strange hair.” I thought that was funny, since no one in the actual comics seemed to notice the Osborn hair, much less associate it with an Osborn.

  8. I’ve always wanted Osborne hair, but have to settle for Conor hair (or lack thereof).

  9. I’ve always thought of the Osborn hair to be something akin to Seth Rogan’s hair.

  10. That’s the same impression that I get, curly hair . It comes off as modified corn rows when you just look at it for what it is on the page though.

  11. I can’t believe it’s Osborn hair that’s getting me to de-lurk.

    I knew a guy with a white boy fro. He got married and started cutting it shorter and slicking it back. It looked EXACTLY like Osborn hair. Perfect horizontal stripes and all. It was all I could think about when I saw him.

  12. I don’t think it makes Harry look like a comic character of the sixties because it was never a hairstyle…in any era. But changing the hair now would be like taking the S off of Superman’s chest. It’s his most distinguishing trait; you can tell who he is no matter how bad the artist is.


    Thank you,

  14. His hair would look like Kramer’s, obviously.

  15. I’m with Quentin, I think of it as white boy with corn rows – though the first time I came across it I assumed the Osbornes were black . . . UK Marvel black and white comics often left the tones off African-American characters (I used to confuse the Black Panther’s friend Monica Lynn with the Wasp all the time). I saw the hair and assumed they were black.

    It is an issue – I was thinking about the hair today, before reading this – my gosh, the Osborne hair is in the morphic field. Wonder if Animal Man can tap into it.

  16. Funny thing about Harry’s hair. I always wondered why it went from RED to darker red to BROWN in the 3 movies. Glad they didn’t give him the ‘widow’s peak’ tho! Couldn’t imagine Franco, uh… – Harry with that!

  17. sandman (the spiderman bad guy) has the same hair

  18. yeah i thought the same thing when i saw harry in the new book. i couldn’t believe they’re sticking with it! it looks ridiculous!

  19. I’m just happy they didnt cave to making it look like the movie

  20. I have the same problem everytime there’s a flashback scene in any spideybook and artists draw peter the way Ditko did.

    What gives?

  21. “I don’t think it makes Harry look like a comic character of the sixties because it was never a hairstyle…in any era. But changing the hair now would be like taking the S off of Superman’s chest. It’s his most distinguishing trait; you can tell who he is no matter how bad the artist is.”

    Too true. And that’s why they both should’ve stayed dead. In Hell. For that “hair.”

  22. Gotta agree with HecticPlanet. My first guess as to what that hair would look like in real life would be a short-cropped, slicked-back jew-fro. Still never seen it in real life though, since that would be ridiculous I think. Although for a megalomaniac multi-millionaire like Norman Osborn to have a distinct hairstyle that no one else in their right mind would give themselves makes sense. Just look at people like Donald Trump and Don King.

  23. Even my pubic hair has better texture.

  24. Hey! Quit making fun of my hair! I think it looks cool. Jerks.

  25. lets be honest the hair is just one sigh of a much larger inconsistanty in marvel. PETER AND HARRY ARE ALWAYS SURROUNDED BY GIRLS. this would never happen on own planet(not 616) they’re both wierdos, any girl unlucky enough to be in an elevator with one of these guys has her hand on the pepper-stray

    the night club scene in amazing spider-man 546 where peter mentions harry been married 2 or 3 times… yeah dude, sure

  26. Right cuz girls are always attracted to really nice stable guys, not rich weirdos.

    Those guys never get women.


  27. Plus, Peter’s always been a pretty awesome and like able guy. Granted it is funny that Gwen, the girl every dude at the university was in love with, was always thinking, “Peter isn’t interested in me…I MUST HAVE HIM!”

    But Harry should always have chicks fawning all over him.

  28. He just has nappy hair. As an African-American, I consider myself somewhat of an authority on this subject. I too, wondered what was up with his hair, until I got old enough to realize that some of my white friends (Usually more “ethnic” folks. I didn’t have many Nordic friends.) had nappy hair too. Very often, they would use “relaxers” or other black hair care products to straighten their hair out. It was a terrible secret–and a shame to their bloodlines. Apparently, the Osborns see no need for such products. They tend to keep it short, with what appear to be “finger waves.”

  29. So you’re saying the Osbornes are taking the Huey Freeman approved “natural approach”?

    I suppose that’s respectable.

  30. Yes, Josh. Thank God Marvel resisted temptation during the whole jheri curl era. Or all that newsprint would be worthless now.

    gene in NYC